Propaganda machine

Hungarian government allocated €18.2 million of taxpayers money on advertising campaign against Sargentini, Soros, and Verhofstadt

On the day of the vote on the Sargentini report in the European Parliament, the Hungarian Cabinet Office of the Prime Minister signed a contract with two advertising agencies. This office, nicknamed ’propaganda ministry,’ signed a contract worth  5.9 billion Hungarian forints (€18.2 million at current exchange rates). The subject of the deal reads: ’Tasks in connection with government measures significantly affecting citizens’ lives.’ Within six days, an advertising campaign targeting Judith Sargentini was launched.

On September 12, members of the European Parliament approved Dutch MEP Judith Sargentini’s report, triggering a so-called ‘rule of law’ procedure against the Orban government under article 7 of the Lisbon treaty. The decision could eventually lead to the suspension of Hungary’s voting rights in the European Council.

The Hungarian government responded in several ways to the vote. First, it announced, that it would question the legitimacy of the vote at the Court of Justice of the European Union. Soon after, Viktor Orbán said in a radio interview that Judith Sargentini was an ’anti-Semite’ and that her report was approved in the European Parliament because the ’pro-migration’ forces supported her, along with George Soros.

At a press conference later, Máté Kocsis, the leader of Fidesz’s parliamentary group, also said that Sargentini was working for Soros. Next, a post on Fidesz’s official Facebook page claimed that the Sargentini report and the fact that it was approved was ’a revenge by George Soros because the Hungarian government was anti-migration.’

Six days after the vote in Strasbourg a news piece was published in pro-government newspaper Magyar Idők. The story said that the Hungarian government was launching a billboard campaign in response to the Sargentini report.

’The government is starting an information campaign to make it clear to everyone: the Sargentini report is based on lies and was approved by the European Parliament in order to apply political pressure and with disregard for procedural rules,’ the story reads.

In the evening of the same day, a video was published on the government’s official Facebook page which included a montage of the photos of Sargentini, Belgian MEP Guy Verhofstadt, and George Soros.

The voiceover says: ’The pro-migration majority in the European Parliament wants to shut us up because we are protecting our nation and Europe with a fence. Do not let them blackmail us! Let’s protect Hungary!’

“Védjük meg Magyarországot” – így kampányol a magyar kormány Judith Sargentini ellen from on Vimeo.

Soon after the video was published, ads showing Verhofstadt, Soros and Sargentini were printed in Hungarian media outlets:


An ad targeting Judith Sargentini in newspaper Magyar Idők, on October 4, 2018. Photo: Atlatszo

According to the contracts revealed by a freedom of information request, the Hungarian government allocated 5.9 billion Hungarian forints to this campaign. This is all financed by taxpayer funds.

According to the contract, 70 percent of the value of the contract (4,13 billion ) will definitely be paid to the contractor whereas there is an option for the remaining 1.77 billion Hungarian forints.

The description of the contract does not specifically mention the advertising campaign attacking Judith Sargentini. However, the advertising companies that the government picked are the same that have carried out similar propaganda campaigns before. The two companies are New Land Media Kft. and Lounge Design Kft., both owned by businessman Gyula Balásy.

Written by Katalin Erdélyi

English version by Anita Kőműves, editing by Clare Humphreys

You can read the original, Hungarian language story here.